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tv   KQED Newsroom  PBS  February 22, 2014 12:30am-1:01am PST

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next on "kqed newsroo" contra costa county under fire for allegedly mistreating teens in juvenile hall. squalor, security problems, and mismanagement. an investigation of richmond's public housing agency. >> this is a health hazard to me. bugs. i don't do bugs. i don't do mice. and the president of the golden state warriors discusses michael samm and the debate over sexual orientation in professional sports. >> this is kind of an exclamation point on the things that happened in our societynd certainly in sports over the last three years. ♪
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good evening and welcome to "kqed newsroom." in a rare move the federal government is weighing in a o a lawsuit challenging how youths with disabilities are treated in contra costa city hall. the suit charged that teens are denied special education and rehabilitation services and kept in isolation for up to 23 hours a day. lawyers heard from family members about the conditions. >>. >> he has actually been kept in solitary con fifinement for as g as, i believe, up to three weeks to a month. no schooling. none whatsoever. the whole three weeks that he's in solitary confinement. >> the allegations have led to
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finger pointing amid a larger debate about such practices. to join me, daffodil altan, producer at the center for investigative reporting, two, two ktvu consumer editor, and jill tucker, "san francisco chronicle" education reporter. how many kids are locked up, and what is the significance of this intervention by the federal department of justice department and education? >> well, there are about 30% of the kids that are locked up, there's about 270 beds there are -- have special needs, special education. but that's really low for a facility. the estimates typically are around 70%. so at least 1/3 are -- have the diagnosis, have the paperwork to be in special education. but the lawsuit alleges that there's probably a lot more that haven't been identified and haven't received the services.
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the federal lawsuit is a pretty big deal. it's rare for the feds to weigh in on a case like this. and it sort of signals that they felt pretty strongly that the party involved which are the probation department and the county office of education which sort of have been pointing the fingers at each other, the fed weighed in and said you're both responsible for the education and services that the children need. >> what kinds of disabilities, tom, do the juveniles have? what are the conditions like in solitary confinement for them? >> they run the gamut of all kinds of problems. a lot come from bad upbringings. some have been involved in seeing murders. many of them live in dire poverty. some of them are -- many of them are banged up. you know, this is -- the run of things that might take an average kid and put them into a different kind of mental framework. some of them really do have
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clinically serious medical issues going on in their minds. so the problem pictures what do you do with these people. and one of the thing that has become a matter of choice in many places is if they're not going to cooperate, the one thing they will understand better than anything else is totalde total deprivation. they're put in this cell, as was described in the taped piece. and there they sit. and the more they rail against it, the more likely they are to get more of it. and in many cases, that only makes matters worse. now, having said that, the other side of the coin is very clear. that some of these people are very bad actors. they know how to push buttons. they know how to pull chains. they know exactly what they want to do. they have no love or no interest in doing anything for society if and when they get out. >> and it's not just the county probation department that says
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-- some of the juveniles are bad. and they're locked up in solitary confinement for safety reasons. >> right. then there's the law, and the law has very specific requirement that these are not supposed to be penitentiary. they're supposed to be supportive rehabilitative environments. and that they are to be educated. there's not a choice about educating, they have to be educated. the law's clear on. this that's what the lawsuit is about. >> the law is very clear that these are not supposed to be n penal institutions but homelike environment. if you look at pictures of solitary confinement which no one has really seen. we've seen picture, but journalists haven't been allowed to see the inside, but it's a cell. looks like an adult cell with a cement block bed with a mattress on it. and it doesn't look like a home. >> well, daffodil, you've been taking a wider perspective on this in your reporting. you looked at rikers island in new york, and you're looking at other cities to see who they're doing right perhaps. what are you finding out?
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>> well, you know, one of the things that's interesting about the department of justice weighing in is that one of the biggest studies that they've done is that they found that the juveniles who were detained in juvenile facility, half of the suicide that's occur in the facilities happen while they are in isolation. so there have been studies done on adults that find that when you put them in isolation, deprive them, they come out and are more violent. it actually doesn't help the jail system. it actually makes things worse because you don't -- you're not actually -- it's not lake a time-out. and i think a lot of people tend to think, well, what's a little time in your room. it's just -- you can cool down. and you know, but most facilities -- what we're finding is that because there's nothing federally that exists, very few states have -- only six states have some kind of ban when it comes to juveniles and juvenile facilities. other than that -- >> the confinement -- >> the confinement. other than that, it's up to the counties, the facility
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themselves. the chaos of information is what the u.n. special investigator on torture calls. he says there is nothing nationally to regulate the practice among kids. what we're finding is that they're -- it's really difficult, it's almost like a secretive practice because no one wants to talk it it or call it that. >> what's clear, though, is interesting -- this solitary confinement, it's the most expensive incarceration there is. by any standard because when these folks are taken out of -- in that particular facility, that could be three probation officers whenever they come out. so it's not like, you know, one person walks up -- it's a labor-intensive thing. extraordinarily expensive. and again, there's a culture that kind of develops in these places and how that culture develops goes to the issue of, well, you know, what are we going to do about these people. and it's probably for many easier to just put them in a box than have to deal with them because you know when when they're out of the box they're
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going to try to deal with you. it's a bad thing and is extraordinarily expensive. one of the issues here is that the state and the counties just don't have the money to do it the way they would like to do it unless they change the way they do it. >> we should note that we invited the county probation department and also the office of education to come on the show. they both declined. but we did hear from the disability rights advocates, the group that filed the lawsuit in the first place. you know, they make the point -- and i quote them now -- "locking youth with disabilities in solitary confinement exacerbates their disabilities, does not provide an effective deterrent from future misconduct, and thus makes further solitary confinement more likely. such barbaric practices must stop." it seems that this is bolstered by the justice department study you mentioned earlier. are you finding any cities or departments out there that perhaps are doing a good job of -- of handling disabled juveniles? >> yes, part of our -- in part
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of our investigation, we spend time in the facilities if skrusz that has done everything in their power to avoid solitary confinement. they've reduced the population. that's one of the first things they tried. that was working with the county and looking at who was brought in and how -- did they need to be held this. that was the first significant step they took. and the thing that they say is now they have serious -- people with serious charges in there. so it's not like they're -- because one of the arguments that are made is that these are dangerous kids. we have to isolate them because they have aggressive, and there's nothing else we can do with them. they gave us some examples, and we met some kids who were extremely aggressive, and they tried -- they try to be as creative as possible. and that means they have a lot of programs for the kids. there's a different culture there. they don't treat them like criminals. they -- they try their best not to treat them like criminals. and they have -- they give them a lot of programs. so they keep them busy, busy.
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these are teenagers. they get bored very easily. they have a lot of testosterone. they're growing, they're changing. they need to be busy. so a lot of times fights start because they're bored. that's what happens in new york. i'm sorry, i didn't know if you were going to say something. so they've done all this work, and they've partnered with a lot of community organizations. >> and speaking of program, getting back to the issue of education, by law they're mandated to provide special education for these juveniles. how is the office of education -- how do they get away with saying, sorry, that's not our responsibility, grill? >> well, i think what they've -- as i said, they've pointed the finger at each other saying, look, they're responsible for keeping these children and, therefore, if they have them in solitary confinement, they're this charge of them. and -- they're in charge of them. and the probation department points back and says, well, they're in charge of education. there's bickering. i think that this case in particular, the issue in contra costa county is raising very
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much the issue of solitary confineme confinement. whether that should be. and certainly there's legislation pending to get rid of it across the state. right now it's sort of a crap shoot of where you commit your crime, whether you could be in solitary. this case specifically truly is about the services that children are -- should receive while they're incarcerated, whether they're in solitary or not. they have a constitutional right to an education in california and federal and state rights to -- to special education. >> and there's a hearing on this in march. and i think then the federal judge will decide whether this will be granted class action status. we'll stay on top of that. i know you will stay on top of that, as well. jill tucker, daffodil altan, and tom vacar, thank you for joining us. >> thank you.
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coming up, a look at troubled public housing lodges in richmond. first, university of missouri football star michael sam ignited a national conversation earlier this month by announcing he's gay. this weekend in indianapolis, he'll be under scrutiny at the annual gathering of top college prospect who work out for nfl coaches and executives. if sam is drafted in may, he would become the first openly gay player on a pro football team. here in the bay area, golden state warriors president rick welch understands what sam is facing on a personal level. welch is the highest ranking openly gay executive in men's professional sports. he spoke earlier with scott schaefer. >> rick welch, welcome. >> thank you. >> it's been about three years since you came out. you were with the phoenix suns at the time. tell me what's been going through your mind in the last two weeks as you've seen michael sam with his revelation. >> well, it's 2014, so my conversations with him have been by text. i haven't met him yet, but we've
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had interesting conversations. i think it's remarkable what's transpired over the last three years. i think this is kind of -- an exclamation point on the things that have happened in our society and certainly in sports over the last three years. i think we have a very special moment happening right now. one that i think a lot of people are going to be paying close attention. >> what are these coaches and g.m.s going to look for this weekend in indianapolis beside how quickly he can run the 40-yard dash? >> i think a lot of it is about character. they want players on their teams that fit the profile of the type of people that they're looking for. and i think that means you want to look inside a guy and understand what makes him tick. i think michael sam happens to be uniquely suited to play the part that he signed up for here. >> what are they going to look for from him that they might not otherwise have been looking for now that he's out? >> i think every team will be looking for something a little bit different.
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i think what he's proven by doing what he's done so far especially with his team in missouri, he confided in his teammates a year ago, he went through a full season of -- of football, and did incredibly well. i think he's proven maybe that he is the right guy to be in the position that he's in today. >> it's been over a year since jason collins came out. he was a free agent at the time but had been in the nba for 12 years with i think six teams. at the time when he came out, you said, i'm quoting, that "more doors upwill open than wi close." yet, he hasn't played another game in the nba. i'm wondering, do you think that his coming out closed a door to the nba for him? >> i think it's one of those questions we'll never know. he did this at the end of his career. >> he's only 34 years old. >> in nba years, that's quite old. for a player who had been marginally contributing over the course of the previous two
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seasons, right. i don't know that we'll ever know that. if you talk to him as i do, i think he has had a lot of doors open personally as well as professionally. just don't happen to be on the basketball court. >> he was, as you said -- i don't want to say a marginal player, but he wasn't lebron. he wasn't kobe. i'm wondering, does that mean that teams look at these situations as is it worth, is he worth the trouble that it's going to bring. >> i don't think you can generalize that across every team. every team has different ownership. every team has different management. and i think -- i have no doubt that there were teams in the nba who look ted situation and said, you know, that maybe more than we want to sign up for right now. but i also believe there are teams in the nba, as i hope there are nfl teams with michael sam, who can look way beyond that and realize this is about winning games. and if a player can help win games, he can be on roster. >> when jason collins came out, the coach of the warriors, mark jackson, said that as a christian man, i have beliefs of
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what's right and what's wrong. he said, on the other hand, i know jason collins and his family. i'm praying for them. that to me did not sound like open arms for an openly gay player for the warriors d. that comment from the coach disappoint you? >> yes. and mark and i have the kind of relationship where we could have a conversation about that. and i think, you know, that was in some way taken out of context. i think mark and i are in a good place now. i think that -- you know, how he feels about the issue is -- is not inconsistent with what we would hope as any employee of the warriors. and i think that he probably didn't say it exactly the way he wished he said it. it did disappoint me. i think since we certainly talked it out and -- we're in a good place. >> i want to ask you about the warriors' arena, proposed for the san francisco waterfront. originally you were hoping to be in the city in that arena for the 2017 season. that's now been pushed back. what's the status of it? >> full speed ahead is the
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status. it's pushed back because we're doing exactly what we promised to do. and we promised to take every bit of regulatory input, every bit of public input. we're now in our third complete design of the project. there are not enough that i'm not sure anyone saw coming. so we're -- listen, this is the process we signed up for. there are no shortcuts. we've completely embraced it. we're completely committed to bringing the warriors to san francisco.
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>> rick welt, thanks. good luck to you and the warriors this year. >> thank you. shortly after the interview of taped yesterday, the brooklyn nets basketball team showed interest in jason collins who revealed last year he's gay. if signed, collins would be the first openly gay player in the nba. every year, the u.s. department of housing and urban development or hud names the worst of the worst public housing agencies. out of more than 4,000 across the nation, just 44 were on the list including the city of richmond. in fact, richmond has been on that list since 2009. some of the poorest, oldest, and most vulnerable people in the bay area live there in squalor and fear due to mismanagement and neglect. that's the findings of a series of reports produced by kqed, the center for investigative reporting and "the san francisco chronicle." here's our story. before he went blind 25 years ago, waddle joins was a mechanic
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for the air force. remarkably, he has taught himself to paint. his apartment richmond's nevin plaza public housing project is filled with paintings of landapes he remembers and imagines. hey, it's amy harris, a reporter. >> on y, he's meeting urlist with the center for vestigave reporting who for the pastix mt has been docenting mismanagements ad poor conditions -- mismagement and poor conditions i richmond's public housing complexes. in thicase, heeat for morthan a year. the hoguthorityays it d therobl p ocober. i don't feel nything. that's -- it's on now can you hear the motor, it's running. but it doesn't come out. >> reporter: no heat. >>o heat. orte>> rep so wardell, can you showwhat do youdo for heat >> tis i traded on -- about u economic back, and i trade it
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off. >> reporter: you do that every day? >> reporter: it says on that it works. >> you don't fell heat, huh? >> reporter: nope. don't feel anything. >> down the road is the six-story hacienda housing complex. on the surface, it looks like many public housing projects across the nation. but residents call it the haci-hell hole. years of chronic mismanagement have led to a host of progms like a roof that has been leaking for eight years. >> they've had to evacuate the entire sixth floor of hacienda because there's mold and stalagtites of chemicals that are dripping down from the roof. >> squatters sometimes use the empty apartment. on the floors below, there are a host of problems. geneva eaton, a grandmother of 12, has for the last year been complaining about a terrible infestation problem. worker have come, but the problem persists. every morning, she sets traps and washes her floors and walls
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in bleach. sometimes she catches up to 12 mice per day. her decrepit refrigerator remains infested with cockroaches despite reated requests to replace it. >> thisis a health hazard to me. bugs. i don't do bugs. i don't do mice. i'm scared of them. we shouldn't have to live like i we're n dogs. >> on sunny days, hacienda's courtyard is a ghering place. but at night, it can be frightening for elderly residents. lighting here was broken for two years, and only fixed in december. rhonda marshall was robbed twice. >> had a gun, too. you know wha it was -- youngsters. i know they had been -- they don't belong to the building because we don't have no youngsters in the builg. >> visors are supposed to enter at a security desk. intruders veeasy access because this gate almost never
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locks,s resident dennis lewis demonstrated. >> you're supposed to nd a key card. as you see, you don't. >> residents have repeated complained about cybersecurity, the company that watches the housing complex. at the january meeting, jackie thompson wanted to know what needs to be done to find a new firm. >> how come in commission doesn't know that we are entering into a new contract? >> tim jones heads the richmond public housing authority. >> it is the opinion of this board that we're not moving forward with this particular firm. we would make that decision then. but the original contract -- >> every month they complain about the job that the security guards are doing and have questions about the competency of the firm. they've brought these concerns to tim jones meeting after meeting after meeting. >> internal u.s. department of housing and urban development memos have criticized tim jones' overall leadership, chastising
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his agency for a total lack of internal controls. >> called him straight out ineffective and said that he failed in a few key areas. one job to make sure the finances are in order. under tim jones' watch, the housing authority's $7 million in debt. they haven't turned in audits to the fed on time for years and years. you head also said he didn't even respond to their emails. >> while jones does have supporters on the advisory commission, several are critical of him. none more so than sylvia gray white, a retired former public housing manager with decades of experience. >> i think it's the director. >> what do you mean diabetic. >> -- mean the director? >> he knows what he's doing. >> as we're talking, we hear a beeping horn. it turns out it was another advisory commission member who said, look, you're not allowed to talk to the press. you're saying all of these negative things.
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don't talk. >> can't shut me up. can't pay me to shut up. no. that's why they put me this board. i will tell you what's going on. >> jones had agreed to an interview for the story, but citing commissioner white's on-camera comments, he backed out. at richmond city hall, mayor gale mclaughlin says she remains confident in the housing authority's executive director. >> i have always found mr. jones to be extremely responsive. and every time i bring something to his attention, he's rights there. so i'll continue to work with him. >> the problem, says the mayor, a long-time green party leader, is not tim jones but the federal government and misplaced priorities. >> i'm working hard to do what i can. but don't -- don't lay the -- at the feet of richmond that we're not working hard enough when we have a president who is putting money into war and a president who has bailed out the banks to
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the tune of $29 trillion. >> in richmond, the decision to hire or fire the executive director of housing primarily rest with the city. but hud's top official in the western u.s., ophelia bascol, says there are other options. >> there's a provision if we get to a point where we believe the authority is totally mismanaged, where we can step in and take over the authority. sort of the -- you know, the nuclear kind of option that we come to at the very end. >> a freedom of information request revealed that hud staff thought firing jones in 2012 might help resolve the problems, but noted likely opposition from richmond's mayor and city council. the federal agency put richmond under a strict improvement plan that, if not followed, could end in the nuclear option. pascal says the richmond housing authority has made improvement. >> richmond is on track with its corrective action plan. >> for geneva eaton, it is too
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little, too late. >> that's right. here they are making it look good for hud down there. look at the people here, how we're living up here. >> she says it's time for a change. in response to the reporting for this series, changes have already occurred. richmond's city manager ordered inspections of all 715 unit at the city's public housing. he also plans to terminate the contract with the security firm in charge of patrolling the two worst housing complexes. and at a city council meeting this week, tim jones apologized, admitting that his agency has fallen short but denied any systemic failures. he also recommended that hacienda be demolished and residents get vouchers to move elsewhere. the council is expected to take up the issue again in a special session in the coming weeks. for full coverage of the story and for all of kqed's news coverage, please go to kqednews .org. that's all for tonight.
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i'm thuy vu. thanks for watching. have a good night. funding for "investigative reporting" on "kqed newsroom" provide
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♪ it's all right, it's okay ♪ ♪ doesn't really matter if you're old and gray ♪ ♪ it's all right, i say, it's okay ♪ ♪ listen to what i say ♪ it's all right, doing fine ♪ ♪ doesn't really matter if the sun don't shine ♪ ♪ it's all right, i say, it's okay ♪ ♪ we're getting to the end of the day ♪ man: finch, tom-- conservative party-- 16,032. jackson, liz-- labour party-- 20,609. ( cheering ) and i declare that liz jackson is duly elected member of parliament for this constituency. give me five minutes.